Erika Hayes James

Crisis Leadership in the 1st 100 Days

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 marked a moment in this nation’s history like no other.  And while we as a country can celebrate in the election of President Obama and the “hope that this changing of the guard brings,” I am reminded of something a friend and colleague has repeated often:  Hope is not a strategy!  Indeed President Obama faces enormous challenges, and hope alone will not see his or our way out of the crises facing this country.  It will take a kind of leadership the likes of which we rarely witness at any organization or political level, yet is undeniably possible. 

We find ourselves in need of the skill, expertise, wisdom, and humility of a crisis leader.  One aspect of crisis leadership that separates it from leadership in more ordinary circumstances is TIME. Crisis leaders must make decisions and take action in a truncated period of time. What better way to mark the critical phases of President Obama’s leadership than by the first 100 days?  Sure, 100 days may be trite and even somewhat arbitrary, but it represents a defined period of time in which any leader can demonstrate his or her skill in being decisive, disciplined, and determined.  These qualities are necessary for setting, communicating, and executing a strategy that in the short run will resolve the immediate threats, and in the long run will set an organization, or in this case our nation, on a new and better course. And of that, we are hopeful.

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